For many years Honda buyers could start with a small Civic, then graduate to a larger Accord as their need for room grew and their incomes increased. But once they began having larger families and required vehicles with even more room, there was no place for them to go within the Honda family. And there were plenty of places for them to go outside of Honda--specifically, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota or Mazda.
From a business point of view, this was a situation that Honda could not allow to persist, something that dealers, as well as loyal owners, pointed out regularly to the parent company.
To meet their needs, Honda introduced in 1995 its first minivan, the Odyssey, based on the front-wheel-drive Accord platform. Coming late to the party, Honda decided to make its own variations on the minivan theme.
Unlike minivans from domestic manufacturers, the Odyssey has four conventional doors, like a sedan. The only other minivan to employ sedan-style doors is the rear-drive, truck-based Mazda MPV. Likewise, Honda took an innovative approach to seating in the Odyssey. The rear bench seat folds flat into a small well in the floor for increased cargo-carrying capability.
For 1996, Honda has made no changes in its appealing formula (other than to make the Odyssey available to Isuzu dealers, who will call it the xxxx).
The Odyssey continues to be available in two trim levels: The well-equipped LX and fully-loaded EX. Each carries a long list of standard equipment, including front and rear air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and locks, 4-wheel antilock brakes, tilt steering, rear window wiper/washer and an AM/FM/cassette stereo sound system.
The EX adds alloy wheels, power sunroof, remote entry and a more powerful stereo with six speakers.
The Odyssey price is on the high side, however, particularly considering that it is powered by only a 4-cyl. engine. The base price of the cheapest LX is $23,560 and the base price of the top-of-the-line EX is $25,550.
Unless you feel an uncontrollable urge for a sunroof, the LX is probably the best bet, and it was our choice for this review.
The Odyssey sports a short nose, raked windshield and compact proportions. In terms of size, the Odyssey is similar to the standard Dodge Caravan but is much smaller than the Grand Caravan. It is somewhat smaller than the Mercury Villager/Nissan Quest, more on par with the Toyota Previa.
Because it is built on the Accord chassis, the Odyssey has a low step-in to make entry and exit a snap. Drivers who test drive some of the taller minivans will be pleasantly surprised by this attribute. In addition, the extra-wide hinged doors make entry and exit easy as well.
As sedan drivers know, four doors are extremely useful. After driving a van with four doors, one would be reluctant to go back to the more traditional configuration of a single sliding door on one side and two front hinged doors. The four doors make it convenient to stash a briefcase, hang laundry from the dry cleaners, install child safety seats and load people away from the street.
On the other hand, sliding doors may be preferable in tight parking spots at the grocery store, eliminating the chance of whacking another vehicle with the door. Then again, when passengers are debarking from the left side of the vehicle, a sedan-type door gives other drivers a warning that someone is about to emerge. That's not true of a sliding door.
As one would expect, the fit and finish of the Odyssey is outstanding. Materials in our test van were of exceptional quality. Interior and exterior pieces joined perfectly together, and paint quality was excellent.
Inside, Honda's approach has made the Odyssey one of the most versatile minivans in terms of seating configurations. The Odyssey is available with seating for six or seven. Only the LX is available with either 6- or 7-passenger seating. The 6-passenger version is the more expensive, and the EX is available only as a 6-passenger van.
Six-passenger models have two front bucket seats, two removable second-row bucket seats and a 2-person third-row bench seat. The removable seats weigh about 25 lbs. and are easy to take out.
The 7-passenger configuration provides a 2-passenger third-row bench seat which retracts completely and easily into the floor to provide a flat and open cargo area. An unplanned stop at the lumber yard or an antique shop allows the driver to simply flop the third-row bench seat into the floor and fold second row seats up against the back of the front seats to carry the goods home instead of returning home to remove the seat as is the case with other minivans.
Or, you can use the Odyssey as a camper--the middle and rear seats fold down to make a day bed. The rear seat also can be flipped onto its back to create a tabletop for tailgate parties.
Despite the clever configurations, however, the rearmost seat does have a drawback. Adult passengers are likely to experience difficulty climbing in and out of the third row seat and will find it a tight squeeze once there. Also, the spare tire is mounted inside the van at the right rear, which limits the rear cargo area somewhat.
On the other hand, storage for miscellaneous items is abundant throughout the Odyssey, with a variety of glove boxes, door pockets, storage bins and cupholders. In front, there are two large glove boxes and a center storage bin along with cupholders.
The instrument panel will be comfortably familiar to Honda loyalists. Conventional analog gauges are legible. Controls are logical and easy to find, reach and operate.
The Odyssey meets all passenger car safety standards, including the 1997 side-impact standards. It features 5-mph bumpers and dual airbags.
As one would expect of a vehicle developed from a passenger car platform, the Odyssey offers the most car-like ride and handling of any minivan on the market. However, this is more than an Accord with a minivan body. Honda's chassis team engineered additional structural reinforcements into the basic Accord unitbody structure, and stretched the wheelbase by 4.5 in., with benefits to both ride quality and responsiveness.
The Odyssey offers only one engine, a 140-hp 2.2-liter single overhead cam 16-valve 4-cyl. engine that's a variation on the basic Accord engine. No V6 is offered, even though one is available in the Accord.
Under most circumstances, the engine operates smoothly and quietly. One won't suffer whiplash with the acceleration from the engine, with a 0-to-60 mph time of 12 seconds. But for around-town driving, the power and acceleration are adequate, and, with an EPA mileage rating of 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, fuel stops will be less frequent than in larger, V6-powered minivans.
Load the van with people and their belongings, however, and one might wish for more horsepower. The 4-cyl. engine begins to sound a little busy in climbing steep hills or pushed hard for passing.
Likewise, the Odyssey is available only with an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmisison, also used in the Accord. The very smooth transmission contains a system of sensors and computers--called Grade Logic--that adapts shifting to driving conditions.
The Odyssey also features the Accord's sophisticated all-independent suspension system. All Honda cars and now its minivan have a double wishbone suspension, instead of the more common and less expensive MacPherson struts. The advantage is that undesirable wheel movements in cornering are minimized, and the handling responses are more precise.
Steering light, precise and responsive, and the tilt-adjustable column allows the driver to compensate for the wheel's rather flat angle, which is mildly reminiscent of the old Volkswagen microbus.
Parking is easy with the Odyssey's small turning radius. Braking, supplied by 4-wheel discs with antilock as standard equipment, is very good.
The Odyssey stacks up as a surprisingly versatile small minivan. The absence of a V6 engine option limits its appeal for families with big loads to haul, but it's otherwise handier than its larger competitors, and the innovative seating setup makes it easier to adapt to various cargo configurations than most, if not all the others.
Although there are many minivans that will swallow more stuff, the basic minivan concept emphasizes extra cargo capacity with car-like driveability. And on that latter point, the Odyssey is the most car-like of them all.
Build and price your dream Honda Odyssey in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2014 Honda Odyssey$41,448 | 1,364 mi
2013 Honda Odyssey$33,980 | 23,225 mi
2012 Honda Odyssey$22,994 | 35,599 mi
2012 Honda Odyssey$27,500 | 28,947 mi
2012 HONDA ODYSSEY$31,897 | 18,287 mi
2012 Honda Odyssey$33,992 | 15,896 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$20,997 | 52,147 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$22,988 | 32,594 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$22,994 | 44,501 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$23,997 | 23,301 mi
2011 HONDA ODYSSEY$25,999 | 46,481 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$26,998 | 41,632 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$27,388 | 58,471 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$27,500 | 54,756 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$29,488 | 39,378 mi
2011 Honda Odyssey$31,250 | 43,547 mi
2010 Honda Odyssey$19,955 | 67,042 mi
2010 Honda Odyssey$21,500 | 44,381 mi
2008 Honda Odyssey$17,947 | 85,182 mi
2007 Honda Odyssey$11,570 | 91,257 mi
2007 Honda Odyssey$12,950 | 97,255 mi
2007 Honda Odyssey$14,388 | 79,443 mi
2006 Honda Odyssey$8,182 | 150,453 mi
2006 Honda Odyssey$10,950 | 82,319 mi
2006 Honda Odyssey$10,995 | 90,325 mi
2005 Honda Odyssey$11,639 | 102,904 mi
2003 Honda Odyssey$7,991 | 128,261 mi
2002 Honda Odyssey$7,991 | 128,220 mi